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Evaluating student knowledge about sexual exploitation using an interprofessional approach to teaching and learning

27 May 2021
Volume 30 · Issue 10


The aim of this study was to qualitatively assess student perceived impact of a novel interprofessional approach to delivering education on sexual exploitation (SE). This article reports on research that we designed, delivered and evaluated to develop an interprofessional community of learning, enabling SE to be discussed with second-year undergraduate students. Participants came from a broad range of specialties. Following the study, students reported an increased level of awareness, understanding and confidence when working with SE. This interprofessional education session has since been incorporated into the nursing, midwifery and allied health programme in a local university and is part of a second-year undergraduate module on knowledge and skills for safe practice.

Sexual exploitation (SE) is a very distressing subject. The scale of the issue is of international concern, affecting children, young people and vulnerable adults, both male and female. The National Working Group for Sexually Exploited Children and Young People (NWG) (2021) describes SE as occurring where an individual or group takes advantage of an imbalance of power to coerce, manipulate or deceive people into sexual activity. This can potentially include people seen in a range of health contexts, so educating healthcare students using an interprofessional education (IPE) approach is essential, with the ultimate goal of learning and subsequently working together across professional boundaries (Department of Health, 2001). The international definition of human trafficking in the context of child SE is ‘the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of a child, for the purpose of exploitation’ (NWG, 2021).

There have been many official inquiries in the UK, including the Jay (2014) inquiry, which estimated that 1400 children had been exploited in Rotherham over the 16-year period covered, the Derby Safeguarding Children Board (2013), Operation Yewtree (Gray and Watt, 2013) and, more recently, Operation Sanctuary (Spicer, 2018), which was conducted at the authors' study site, in Newcastle upon Tyne. Operation Sanctuary was set up in 2013 to investigate claims of sexual abuse against girls and young women, and discovered that 278 victims were involved. The findings of the inquiry resulted in the conviction of 18 people (17 men and 1 woman).

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